Hotel Review: Radisson Blu, St. MartinPosted by in Travel
My daughter and I just returned from a relaxing girls’ getaway in St. Martin for 5 days. It’s a lovely place and I’ll be posting more about the island, what to do and where to eat in later posts (not to mention the shopping!). First things first though is the hotel. And I have a lot to say about it, so I thought I’d do a whole post.
We stayed at the Radisson Blu, in Anse Marcel, on the French (north) side of the island (the southern part of the island is St. Maarten and is Dutch). It is located north of Marigot, the main French town, and very near Grand Case, which is where the best restaurants are. It is also close to Orient Beach, the best known beach on the island. We wavered a bit about where to stay since this hotel does not offer oceanview rooms. The property backs up to the ocean and the rooms have either garden views or marina views. I generally prefer to have an oceanview when I’m staying in a place that is all about the ocean, but we decided we probably wouldn’t be spending much time in the room anyhow. We reserved a superior room with marina view.
The hotel web site provides driving directions from the airport so we brought those along in
case our GPS did not work. When we arrived, it wasn’t working (of course!). I also asked the car rental place for directions. Both sets of directions combined were a bit vague. St. Martin has only a handful of stop signs and traffic lights. There are roundabouts and very few road signs. It is difficult to distinguish a main road from a side road since most roads have no center markings and none are in very good condition All of this made getting to the hotel extremely challenging! It’s hard to know when to turn when there are no signs. We missed a turn and got a little lost, but finally figured it out.
The next challenge in getting to the hotel is that you must literally go up and over a mountain to get there. The road to the hotel is narrow, very steep and filled with blind hairpin turns. When we arrived it was dark which made it even more terrifying. The hotel doesn’t post signs along this road. There are turnoffs where it would have been helpful to have a little sign guiding me!
At one point, there is a breath-taking view of the cove the hotel is in, but there is absolutely no way to pull over since it is on a hairpin turn. We discovered a spot to leave the car just below this and were able to hike up the hill to get the photo (St. Martin is filled with photo opps like this. You will be driving up a giant hill and suddenly at the crest, you will gasp at the sight below you, but there is nowhere to pull over to get a picture and you are always being tailgated by someone who is annoyed by your driving.
We finally managed to find the hotel, which is hidden behind a manned entry. The exterior of the hotel is very pretty - white with big colored curtains. My photo did not turn out well, but
I’m sharing to give you a sense of it. I pulled the rental car up to the front door and we went in to check in. There was no bellman in sight. The front desk was very busy and the woman who checked us in was unfriendly, soft-spoken, and difficult to hear. Part of our package included membership in the My Time program, which entitled us to perks like a fruit basket in the room and a food and beverage credit during our stay (both of which we did get). We were also supposed to be greeted with a cold towel and a tropical drink. This did not happen. We were supposed to be given a special My Time card to show during our stay. I learned later that the little paper business card with our room number handwritten on it was this card (would have been nice if someone explained this, but I’m not sure what good this card would have done us). The program was also supposed to include a call on the third day of stay to ask how things were. No one ever called.
The My Time program also allowed late check out, but when I asked, I was told I would have to ask on the morning of departure, which defeats the purpose since we couldn’t plan to be able to stay.
On the plus side, we were told we had been upgraded to a deluxe room.
While we were checking in, a bellman came and asked me for my keys since my car was in the way. He moved the car and removed some of our luggage and brought it in. He did not bring all of our belongings and he didn’t tell me where my car was (I assumed since they moved it, they would retrieve it). The next morning, my daughter and I had to wander the three parking lots to find our car – there was no accountability for where it had been parked.
About 10 days before we left, I contacted the hotel to let them know I am gluten intolerant and to ask if their chefs would be able to accommodate me. I got an email back saying one of the chefs would be emailing me. No one did. Two days before we left I responded and let them know no one had contacted me. No response. At check in I asked
again and was told a chef would call me in my room. This didn’t happen. At breakfast one morning I tried to get some assistance and the response was quite poor.
After the nonsense at check-in, we were happy to go to our room which had a king size Sleep Number bed (you can adjust the firmness on each side), a table and chairs, armchair and stool, balcony, and large bathroom. The room was a soft yellow and very comfortable. One feature I liked was that in addition to a chest of drawers, there were huge baskets under the nightstands for storage, as well as two closets and small storage baskets near the minibar.
The bathroom was huge with two sinks, but it wasn’t very usable since the tub/shower had a glass door and the toilet area didn’t have a door, so essentially only one person could use the room at a time.
I don’t think I would call our view a marina view. I could barely make out some boats through the trees. Despite this, I was very pleased with our room which appeared recently renovated and was spotless. I do not believe the room was vacuumed during our stay however, since the same crumb remained on the floor by my side of the bed the entire stay.
I have nothing but glowing things to say about the grounds of this resort. The lobby area was open to the outside and there were many comfortable couches and chairs in the area. There is also a lobby bar. The grounds have beautiful flowering shrubs. There is a bocce ball court and a ping pong table. There is a spa, but we did not visit it during our stay.
The place where we spent all of our time was the beach and pool. The resort backs up to a big
crescent-shaped beach that is shared with several other resorts, however it is not crowded or busy at all. The waves come all the way up to the retaining walls, so there is not a lot of space to actually sit on the beach (and there seem to be no tides, since the water was always up to the edge). On our first morning, there were lounge chairs on the sand, so we sat there. The waves would wash up under our chairs. It was nice, but I was constantly worrying about our bag, which I kept lifting in the air to keep dry. After that morning, no lounge chairs were allowed on the beach, but they were right next to the beach, set up underneath palm trees with a spectacular view. There is a beachside bar with one waiter who makes the rounds. We got one round of frozen drinks and didn’t think they were very good.
The sand is soft and flat with no shells or rocks to speak of. The beach is in a little cove and there are boats anchored there. You can see Anguilla across the way. It is a magical little cove. Be aware that the beach is tops optional! The beach is long enough for a nice walk, which we enjoyed several times. The water had a bit of an undertow, but once you got past where the waves broke it was pleasant to just float in the turquoise water.
I am still not recovered from the glory that was the pool. This was the biggest, most comfortable pool I’ve ever been in. There are 4 sections. There’s a rectangular area where a water fitness class was happening one day. The next section has a sand area next to and no steps – you just gradually walk in like you would at a beach. This was not very deep and was perfect for children.
There was an intermediate area that was a bit deeper, then it opened up to the infinity pool section that was about 5 feet deep. The infinity edge meant that not only could you look out over the ocean as you swam, but there were no waves or splashing, since the water cycles
over the edge of the pool. It was so big that 4-5 times around this section of the pool
constituted my half hour daily swim.
There were plenty of chairs, umbrellas and palm trees around the pool. There were a few cabanas for rent but really were unnecessary since you could find so much shade. There are two resident iguanas my daughter saw casually swimming across the pool!
The pool bathrooms were pretty dirty and rarely had toilet paper, so that was the only complaint I can offer.
I would go back just for the pool and beach area alone.
The resort seemed to be very popular with families from France. There were also many couples (some young, but many in midlife) who were American. It never felt crowded or busy and the atmosphere was relaxed and delightful.
If you’re looking for a wonderful getaway, you will find it in this resort!